Malaysia days 1-3: sightseeing in modern Kuala Lumpur

Hello from Malaysia!! I’m starting off in Kuala Lumpur, the capital city. My first days have been packed with activity as I’ve crammed as much sightseeing as possible in two short days. Kuala Lumpur left a great impression and turned out to be a rare big Asian city I enjoyed. Get ready for a lot of photos. 🙂

Day 1: travel day to Kuala Lumpur

My first day was spent traveling from Indonesia. I landed in KL in the evening and settled into my hostel, Mingle High Street Hostel. I booked a private room without much examination, and I was surprised to find I was staying in this tiny room! Turned out this hostel was one of those “capsule” concepts which was a first for me. I settled in and grew to love my tiny space. I slept so well in here.

Joe joked this hostel looked like a prison. Fortunately, there was plenty of common space to spread out.

After a long travel day, I ate at the first restaurant I could find which was an Indian spot. One reason that drew me to Malaysia was that it’s a melting pot of different ethnicities: Malays of course, Chinese, Indians, etc. I am SO ready for all the amazing food!

Day 2: sightseeing around KL

After a full night’s sleep, I was ready to party! I ate breakfast at my hostel, mapped out my day, and headed out for a full day’s itinerary.

I started walking around to get a feel for the city. My first impression was very positive. Clean, organized, modern…coming from Indonesia, it was a real treat and probably why I appreciated KL so much. The city reminded me of Singapore, but with more skyscrapers and slightly less greenery. If Singapore and Chicago had a baby – it would be KL.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

riverfront in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

My first walking stop was Sultan Abdul Samad Building, a former government building from the 1800s. It was a peaceful campus-like area right along the river with beautiful architecture.

Sultan Abdul Samad Building

Then, I headed to the National Mosque of Malaysia. The majority of people in Malaysia are Muslim, so I wanted to see this spot that was important to so many people. I was pleasantly surprised by the mosque – it was modern and very peaceful, a contrast to my only other mosque experience in Ajmer, India.

National Mosque of Malaysia

They gave female visitors robes to make sure we were entirely covered.

I got a free tour from one of the mosque’s volunteers. It was very helpful and informative. Indonesia and Malaysia are the first Muslim nations I’ve visited and my impression has been very positive – full of kind and gracious people.

After the mosque, I headed to a park nearby for some chill time. The park was HUGE, and it was nice to see the city dedicate space for greenery.

After some peace, I was ready to enter the concrete jungle again. My next stop was Chinatown for lunch. I was really looking forward to Chinatown as I was dreaming of eating authentic Chinese food.

Petaling Street, Chinatown, KL

I ended up at a lunch spot with 4 items on the menu and that was full of Chinese people – can’t go wrong with that. 😉 I ordered the prawn noodle soup – yum! I later found out this spot is actually pretty famous, called Lai Foong Lala Noodles.

Lai Foong Lala Noodles

Afterward, I did some shopping on Petaling Street, the main street in Chinatown. KL’s Chinatown was pretty small and seemed to be run by more Indians than Chinese people. Nevertheless, there was plenty of authentic street food which was what I was most excited about.

Chinatown, Kuala Lumpur

After a full morning of sightseeing, I was exhausted. I headed back to my hostel for some A/C and a power nap, and then I was back out again! Side note – up to this point of my trip, I preferred traveling slow, but I am planning to move a little faster in Malaysia since I only have 12 days. It’s a bit of an adjustment but I’m here for it!

Next stop was the Central Market, an indoor market that sold mostly clothing and souvenirs. I didn’t stay too long since it was pretty crowded.

Central Market

Then onto KL’s oldest Hindu Temple, Sri Maha Mariamman Temple. This was an ornate and well-kept temple. I admired the colorful decorations and exploring my first Hindu Temple since India. 🙂

Sri Maha Mariamman Temple

Sri Maha Mariamman Temple

Sri Maha Mariamman Temple

Phase two of sightseeing was complete! I rested up at my hostel again, and then I headed out for dinner at Jalan Alor Food Street, one of the most popular night markets in KL with tons of hawker eats. I loved the vibe as it was filled with locals and tourists. There were so many diverse cuisines that it was hard to choose just one. I settled on seafood udon noodles with peanut sauce and chicken & beef satay.

Jalan Alor Food Street

Red bean pastries for dessert. 🙂

Day 3: Batu Caves + more sightseeing around KL

Breakfast the next morning was a red bean bread pastry – can you tell I love red bean? 😉

I headed out early to see the Batu Caves, a Hindu shrine and key attraction in KL. I fell in love with photos of it and was excited to see it for myself. It turned out the Batu Caves were even more beautiful in person! The whole place was large with multiple temples, massive shrines, and colorful paintings. The limestone hill as a backdrop made it especially epic.

Batu Caves

Batu Caves

Batu Caves

There were 272 steps to reach the cave. A good morning workout. 🙂

stairs at Batu Caves

stairs at Batu Caves

At the top was the cave – it was HUGE! The cave was well maintained with multiple break-out temples/shrines and even shops selling trinkets.

I had high expectations for Batu Caves, and even so, it exceeded them! I definitely appreciated it more after traveling to India and learning about Hinduism – e.g. identifying the different gods, seeing repeating symbols…I love how travel builds on itself that way. 🙂

After a morning at the caves, I headed back to town. Next was Guan Di Temple, a Taoist temple. This was my first Taoist temple experience, and I loved all the traditional Chinese decor. There wasn’t much going on at the temple, so I snapped a few photos and moved on.

Guan Di Temple

Guan Di Temple

Lunch was in Chinatown again. Once again, I picked a spot using my scientific method: seeing a lot of Chinese people eating there. I had roasted chicken & rice – a local dish cleverly called “chicken rice” – simple and delicious!

chicken rice

I relaxed at the hostel in the afternoon to take a break from the heat and work on this blog post.

The rest of the day was pretty chill as the rain came in. I ventured out for dinner and relaxed some more.

What a packed first few days in Malaysia! It’s nice to be back on the backpacker trail and do straightforward touristy things along with the many others (I’m surprised how many westerners are in Malaysia). At this point in my travels, I’m able to connect more dots and appreciate little details more than I could at the start of my gap year. KL is pretty similar to Singapore in that they are both melting pots, but I was able to appreciate KL more than Singapore after traveling to other counties (especially India and Indonesia).

Also, it feels so good to blend in again which I hadn’t felt since Singapore. Most locals default to speaking Chinese to me, which has been good practice. 🙂

I hope you have a great week!

5 thoughts on “Malaysia days 1-3: sightseeing in modern Kuala Lumpur

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